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This is Hannelore

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Hannelore came from a family of wealth when living in Dresden.  Her father was a lawyer but never practiced law.  Instead, he married into her mother's family business which made malt for beer.  The family, whose malt factory originated in Czechoslovakia, expected her father to expand the business into Germany.  Additionally, the family purchased an old malt house in Paterson, New Jersey , before the family moved to the United States.  When they all had to flee Germany because they were Jewish, the malt factory in New Jersey became their salvation.  Hannelore described her memories of coming over to the US on the SS Conte di Savoia .  She related a memory of her falling asleep in a deck chair on the top deck when the hurricane of 1938 was in full force and everyone else was below deck.  Her father frantically looked for her and finally found her, woke her up, and rushed her down the steps to safety.

 

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Hannelore studied dance as a young child in Dresden and continued her passion on West 84th Street in New York City.  She also attended Black Mountain College in North Carolina  for two years, a non-traditional college where one studied whatever one chose.  She then transferred to the University of Southern California where she met her husband.  They had a daughter and after three years, divorced.  Hannelore then moved to New York City.  She said that the city was where she wanted to be.  Her husband, Louis Clyde Stoumen , was an American photographer, film director, and producer.  He won two Academy Awards: the first in 1957 for Best Documentary Short Subject (The True Story of the Civil War) and again in 1963 for Best Documentary Feature (Black Fox: The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler.) Hannelore asked me if I would like to see one of the Oscars that he won and brought it out to show me.  She was very proud.

This past December I received an email from her introducing herself.  She told me that my project caught her attention.  She is 92 years old, came to the United States in 1938 with her parents and brother, fleeing Hitler. She has lived in New York City since 1958. She has published several books and articles.  Her memoir, "On the Way to Feed the Swans ," describes her first ten years living with her parents in Dresden , Germany, and fleeing to Czechoslovakia , waiting for permission to enter the United States.

Hannelore is a poet, writer, and publisher who founded the International Women's Writing Guild in 1976 and served as it's executive director until 2011.  She lives in an apartment with her daughter, Elizabeth.  The building is a six-story residence that is one of the first buildings on the Upper East Side of New York to have an elevator.  Hannelore took great pride in describing her home.  She informed me that it was built in the late nineteenth century and designed by the person who built the Park Avenue Armory in New York City.

 

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When Hannelore and her family fled Germany, they left a life of privilege.  In her book "On the Way to Feed the Swans," she talks about arriving in New York City "... I do not recall getting off the ship, going through customs, or any details like that.  I do not remember seeing the Statue of Liberty, or how it felt to first set foot in the New World.  None of these things registered.  My mind didn't really start recording anything until we had settled ourselves into our relatives' car.  It was aunt Etta who drove.  There was no chauffeur.  Maybe that was my first impression of the New World."

I asked Hannelore how she spends her time in the city and she said she feels at home here and has friends.  She also leads a class of women writers who meet once a month at a branch of the New York Public Library and read from their writings to each other. She said it was due to a poetry reading that she was lucky enough to find her current rent-stabilized apartment.  She was there to translate poems from German to English. She met a man who told her about an available apartment in the building where he lived and urged her to look at it right away.  She has lived there since 1978.

I asked Hannelore what she likes most about New York City. She had a one-word answer.  "Opportunity."